New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern smiled widely last week when asked if her COVID-19 policies are creating two classes of people based on vaccination status.
What is the background?
Ardern's comments come as her government announced that 90% of New Zealand needs to be fully vaccinated before the country begins loosening COVID-related restrictions.
The Telegraph explained:
Under a "red" setting in the new traffic-light system, those who are vaccinated will be able to move around and use services relatively freely. Businesses will also remain open.
However, those who are not vaccinated will face much tougher restrictions. They will only be able to gather in groups of up to 10 and will not be able to use "close contact" businesses, such as restaurants, bars and gyms.
What happened now?
During an interview with the New Zealand Herald last week, Ardern was asked if her policies are meant to create a two-tier system in New Zealand society where unvaccinated citizens do not enjoy the same rights as those vaccinated against COVID-19.
Chillingly, Ardern responded in the affirmative.
"You've basically said, and you probably don't see it like this, but two different classes of people, if you're vaccinated or if you're unvaccinated. If you're vaccinated you have all these rights," the journalist began.
"That is what it is, yep, yep," Ardern responded as she gleefully smiled.
The admission reflects the same sentiment Ardern communicated when announcing New Zealand's reopening plans. In those remarks, she said unvaccinated New Zealanders will not have the same level of freedom as their vaccinated countrymen.
"If you are still unvaccinated, not only will you be more at risk of catching COVID-19, but many of the freedoms others enjoy will be out of reach. No one wants that to happen, but we need to minimize the threat of the virus, which is now mainly spreading amongst unvaccinated people," she said.
Ardern's plan was sharply criticized by the Māori Party, a minority political party in New Zealand. Officials within the party compared the plan to "Squid Game," the hit Netflix show where contestants compete in games and the losers are executed.
Less than 70% of New Zealand's eligible population is currently vaccinated, Reuters reported.